Review: The Gold Diggers (1983)

Sally Potter’s feature film directorial debut, The Gold Diggers, is a strange yet stunning black and white curiosity piece written from a feminist perspective was the film that begun Potter on a path of intelligent and creative works.

 Celeste (Colette Laffont) works in a bank and is investigating the nature of money and gold and their circulation. Meanwhile, the beautiful blonde Ruby (Julie Christie) has been released from a whirlwind world of overpowering men, and is chasing her blurred memories of that time. The two’s paths cross and Celeste’s exploration starts to intertwine with Ruby’s self-discovery and they begin on a trip down memory lane within a surreal and theatrical setting.

Christie brings a beautiful gentility to Ruby, and is mesmerising in her performance as the daughter of a gold rush entertainer. With her overwhelming beauty, she retraces her past with a sense of naivete and innocence that beautifully contrasts with Celeste’s perplexing exploration. Laffont, in her only feature film role, is fascinating as Celeste and has such a depth and range to her character that gives the film a powerful and interesting aspect. The two work well together, and their chemistry serves as an attention-grabbing development as the film progresses.

Having proven her immense talent only a few years before with her debut, a short film called Thriller, Sally Potter put her skills varying from writing, to dancing to good use in The Gold Diggers. A somewhat ambitious project, it was made on a small budget but with an all-female cast and crew who all received the same pay, which was startling in respect as such a thing had not before been done. The dance sequences and songs used in the film stand as a homage to the great films of cinematic history with a poetic and engaging quality never before seen in a film of its kind.

The cinematography, stunning in every respect and only made more beautiful by the use of shadow and light, gives an ethereal spark that makes the film mesmerising despite the lacking plot. There is very little dialogue, but instead there is a sporadic and riddle-like narration that reveals little about the actions taking place, but gives a deeper insight into the film’s greater meaning.

“I managed to be feverish but cool, passionate yet pure, aloof and, yet, totally available.” – Ruby (Julie Christie)

A cool yet cerebral piece, The Gold Diggers is an experimental film that’s stylised and stunningly crafted scenes will resonate with viewers, whether or not they can make sense of the sometimes seemingly nonsensical plot line.

Rating: ★★½

This post was my contribution to the British Invaders Blogathon hosted by the wonderful Terence of Mercurie!

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10 Responses to Review: The Gold Diggers (1983)

  1. girlsdofilm says:

    Thanks for reminding me I’ve been meaning to watch this for ages. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it and, personally, I can’t imagine Julie Christie in this role – I’ve never seen her in a feminist light, but I’m happy to be proved wrong.

    • Rosie says:

      I’d be interested to see what you think of it. Julie Christie is wonderful and it’s such an unusual role too, which makes it even more curious. Thanks for reading!

  2. mercurie80 says:

    Thank you so much for writing about Gold Diggers. I have read about the film, but I have never seen it. It sounds like something I would really like to check out.

    Thank you so much for participating in the blogathon!

  3. I think I’ve seen too many ’30s films since for me, any movie called The Gold Diggers has got to be a Joan Blondell musical or a Loretta Young Pre-Code, not anything that can be described as “riddle-like”, “experimental” or “cerebral.” I’m now definitely intrigued by this one. Glad you decided to write this one up.

  4. My first reaction was to wonder whether the 1983 was a typo:) How amazing that everyone was paid the same–that alone makes me want to give the film a shot, strange as it may sound:) Leah

  5. Philipe Dallaire says:

    Currently watching it and still at the beginning. at worst, it will be beautiful visuals for some of my favorite music by lindsay cooper ( already know the soundtrack by heart, I’m a big fan of her ). but I suspect it will be a lot better than that,

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